When I moved to Umeå from Canada to pursue a Masters in Business Development and Internationalization I did all the necessary homework. I read the survival guides, watched Youtube videos and tried to understand what I was getting myself into before I boarded the plane. Despite being 6000 Kms away from home the surrounding landscape of Umeå is remarkably similar to that of the North Shore of Lake Superior. The sight of birch lined streets and cold winter conditions made for a seamless transition. I think the most difficult part of the first month in Sweden was declining offers to join countless hockey teams. The sense of shock that came across many people’s faces when I mentioned I was from Canada and did not play hockey was rather hilarious. Then the further look of confusion when I mentioned that I played football (soccer) made for a very interesting first few weeks.
After a few years and countless interactions I am still here. Something I still do not fully understand after all this time is why Swedes are so reluctant to sell themselves. Being a native English speaker I am often approached to proof read CVs and Cover Letters. More often than not these Swedish CV’s do not aim to highlight personal accomplishments, and they definitely do not focus on what sets them apart from the other applicants when compared to the North American approach.
Carrying this thought to the corporate level, I believe that companies, particularly in Northern Sweden fall into the same trap. I have been in contact with many extremely skilled and talented companies that have trouble pinpointing their exact unique selling point (USP). As a result, I believe that many of these companies fail to capitalize on their full potential because they do not emphasize what sets them apart and makes them unique. Maybe I am just so accustomed to the ubiquitous nature of sales in North American that a passive approach is hard to internalize.
I am still unable to pinpoint if this is one of the key factors behind why many companies choose to develop their existing network of customers rather than attracting new ones. Do companies diversify their offering because they are comfortable with their current customer base? Or, are companies reluctant to expand geographically because they have not focused on a specific target segment?
Maybe it is just because of the recent downturn in global oil prices and the affect it is having on my home province (Alberta), or the affects of witnessing the once flourishing automotive industry in Ontario that makes me think this way. I am now becoming much more cognizant and hypersensitive to the risks of relying on limited sources of income, regardless of how profitable they may be.
Diversification is becoming a very hot topic in Canada as the country struggles to replace the billions lost because of low oil prices. As a result, companies that have long standing traditions of operating in isolated, high economic regions are now expanding geographically to hedge this risk. On a smaller scale, minor environmental shifts or a change in an existing customers procurement policy could have the same devastating result on a smaller firm. In prosperous times geographic expansion might not seem to be a priority but in many cases this is the best time to do so.
/Rob McCuaig, Revenues
If you care to read more about the automotive manufacturing industry in Ontario see below links:
If you care to read more about the affects due to the downturn of oil prices see links below: